Changing the world.

Part 3 of a Six-Part Series: Six Reasons Your MGO Will Stay at Your Organization

Your major gift officers want to change the world. And they want to do it through the mission of your organization.
If you sat down with great MGOs who are with an organization for a long time, every one of them would talk passionately about their organization’s mission. They could tell you story after story of lives changed, emerging technologies that are making the world better, or new advances in medicine that are helping people live richer lives.
Being a major gift officer is not “just a job.” As I stressed in my last post, if a major gift officer feels important and supported by her manager, she will perform. But if you can couple that with visionary leadership that is constantly pushing their teams to seek excellence – and reminding their staff that they are changing the world every day – you will have a loyal, high-performing major gift officer.
This post is really all about great leadership. It’s leadership that drives the overall mission of the organization. It’s leadership that provides vision and inspiration. Here is the kind of leadership I find in organizations that keep their staff:

  1. You are ethical in all of your practices. MGOs stay in organizations that do things the right way. I recently talked with an MGO who was interviewing for a job. Everything seemed great. The MGO liked her potential manager, she really resonated with the mission, and all looked good. Then she had an interview with the CEO and Board Chair. At first the interview was going well. Then, the CEO said that one reason they wanted to hire her was because they wanted her to bring her donors over to the new organization. While it was something that was not illegal, it was totally unethical. She stood right up from her chair and said, “Well, I’m guess I’m done here.” She told me later that even if they understood that she wouldn’t do it and still hired her, the fact that they even brought it up sent up so many other red flags, she knew she couldn’t work for that organization.
  2. Programs are run with excellence. Gosh, Richard and I have so many stories of MGOs telling us how they “used to work for” an organization where the non-profit didn’t actually do the things they told donors they were going to do. I know, it sounds crazy, but we have story after story of non-profits where the MGO solicits a donor about a certain project, and then the non-profit doesn’t actually implement the project. Then the poor MGO has to figure out how to tell the donor what they did with their money. If you want to keep good talent, your programs have to make an impact. This is especially true in today’s world – donors want to know that they made an impact with their gifts, and if you can’t show how your program or projects are doing just that, your good fundraising talent will be out of there in a nanosecond.
  3. Your organization has a “culture of philanthropy.” Yeah, I know that phrase gets thrown around a lot in our industry, but the bottom line is that when you have a real organizational culture that values donors, that views donors as part of your mission and where everyone in your organization recognizes that their role is crucial to fundraising… when you have this, you will keep your good major gift officers. Major gifts work will be successful not only when your CEO embraces it, but when Finance, Program, HR and even the front desk staff do as well. Nothing is worse for an MGO than when he feels he is the only one out there who seems to care about donors. It really is difficult to work in that type of environment. So if you are an executive director or CEO, you’ve got to lead in this area – if you want to keep good talent.

Does your organization overflow with inspiration and vision? Are your programs top-notch and making an impact? If yes, then you have the right ingredients to keep good major gift officers. If you keep losing good people every couple of years, maybe this is your problem.
PS – If you’re a leader who wants to improve your non-profit’s major gift program management, please consider our Major Gift Academy’s new course for managers and executives, starting in May. Click here to learn more.